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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Theater Stages ‘Absolutely! (perhaps)’

Now through Feb. 23, the UCSB Department of Theater & Dance is staging a new production of Absolutely! (perhaps) by Luigi Pirandello, adapted by Martin Sherman, directed by Simon Williams, and starring Ian Watson, Dani Hernandez, Patrick Arter, Morgan Altenhoff and Nicole Abramson.

Ian Watson and Dani Hernandez, seated, promote competing versions of the truth in 'Absolutely!' (perhaps) at UCSB. (David Bazemore photo)
Ian Watson and Dani Hernandez, seated, promote competing versions of the truth in Absolutely! (perhaps) at UCSB. (David Bazemore photo)

Pirandello’s play Così è (se vi pare) premiered June 18, 1917, in Milan. The idiosyncratic title is all but untranslatable, although it literally means, “So it is! (if it seems so).” The play is based on Pirandello’s novel, La signora Frola e il signor Ponza, suo genero.

One public information source says of Così è (se vi pare): “The theme is conflicting versions of the truth told by the main characters, each of whom claims the other is insane.” The play also seems like a cross between Rashomon and Last Year at Marienbad, expressive of a (mainly) European sensibility, suggesting that reality is in the eye of the beholder.

With Pirandello’s characters, there is always at least one character — like the fictional “Father” in Six Characters in Search of an Author — who insists that his reality is the reality, and whose will is, at least temporarily, stronger than the others. In this case, there are three realities in competition, what Lady Frola says, what Mr. Ponza says, and what the townspeople see and hear.

UCSB describes the plot as follows: “No one has ever seen Signor Ponza’s wife and her mother, Signora Frola, together anywhere in town. Nor has anyone witnessed Signora Ponza leave her home. Why does Ponza — a civil servant new to the district — keep her closeted away? His employer, Councillor Agazzi, and Agazzi’s wife pry their way into Ponza’s affairs. When Ponza’s claims and his mother-in-law’s story could not possibly both be true, the growing assembly of townspeople become insatiable for more details. The truth of the matter remains an elusive mystery.”

Absolutely! (perhaps) plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15-16, and Wednesday through Friday, Feb. 20-22, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Feb. 23, in the Performing Arts Theater (no late seating) on the UCSB campus.

Tickets are $17 for general admission, and $13 for students, seniors, and UCSB faculty, staff and alumni, and are on sale at the Theater & Dance Ticket Office. Call 805.893.7221 or 805.893.3022, or purchase online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are his own.

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